More radial engine talk...

From:         Steve Lacker <>
Organization: applied research laboratories
Date:         05 Aug 96 23:32:58 
Followups:    1 2
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Recently, we discussed the turbo-compound radials of the '50s as used in
Starliners and DC7-C aircraft.

In another current thread, the following comment was made:

>NAC gets their DC-6's ex-USAF from Davis-Mothan.  The mods include
>modern avionics.  When a plane reaches its 10,000 hour life limit, they
>part it and go get another, transferring avionics, etc.  They get a
>very respectable 2,500 between overhauls of the R-2800 engines.  And
>this with 100LL (lotsa lead) in lieu of 115-145.

Being a nut about anything old and mechanical, I'm naturally fascinated by the
radials. What were some of the radials, like the R-2800, that were known for
reliability? There is a Confederate Air Force A-26 Invader (The 'Spirit of
Waco') that shows up at almost every air show in my area, and also a B-25 (The
'Yellow Rose') which shows up frequently. I generally manage to talk to the
crews. Sometime's I'm extra lucky and get to talk to a mechanic instead of a
pilot :-)

Anyway, the story on 'Spirit of Waco' is that they more or less "turn the key
and go" on her R2800s, with surprisingly little trouble. They run 100LL, and
sometimes get lucky and find a stash higher octane fuel at show sites
(apparently, a topping off with fuel is one of the perks of bringing the bird
to some airshows), but so long as they watch the manifold pressure, run rich,
and go easy they tend not to have much trouble. When they do attend a show,
they will sometimes take the plane up 2 or 3 times in a day- they really don't
hesitate to fly it.

On the other hand, almost every time I've talked to 'Yellow Rose' crew members,
there is a sad story of trying to find yet another rebuildable Wright R-2600,
or having a freshly rebuilt engine on the wing but not performing well at all
(freauently, the nacelle is open and tinkerings are occurring at the show
itself). In practice, were the R-2600's that much more trouble prone, or is it
just that there are fewer Wright's left around today? Flipping through Janes,
it looks like the 2800 was a far more common choice for airliners than was the
2600, so 2800 parts are probably more common.

Steve Lacker	/	Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas
512-835-3286	/	PO Box 8029, Austin TX 78713-8029